The outcomes from the just ended youth day celebrations show that a lot remains to be done to ensure that all our youths are empowered to take the mantle of leadership. It is therefore important to know that, although the celebrations are over, the work to change the prospects of our youths begins now. For youths to take the lead as the 2020 theme for Youth Day held on 12th March states, it is important that the education sector is made a priority in our Country. Education is fundamental to development and growth. Skilled human resource makes possible all developmental achievements, from health advances and agricultural innovations to efficient public administration and private sector growth. For countries to reap these benefits fully, they need to unleash the potential of the human mind, specifically for our youths to take the lead. There is no better tool for doing so than quality education.
Education is a proven door to prosperity and critical thinking that allows for initiative even amidst many challenges. Education is therefore essential for individual growth economically, culturally, socially, and politically. Education can accord our youths an opportunity to prosper in life and take up leadership positions regardless of their gender, ability, tribe and race. For our country and indeed for any nation to prosper and have youths that take the lead, it is important to invest in inclusive education of high quality at all levels.
It is important that all youths in Zambia have access to Basic Education (Primary and Secondary Schools). According to an analysis conducted by United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), if all people completed secondary school, as called for by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, world poverty could be reduced by half. Additionally, countries like Japan have prospered economically because of huge investments in human resource skills development.
Additionally, it can be said from the 2019 grade 12 examinations that candidates performed least in natural sciences and mathematics in a country where Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are on the top priority. This high failure rate in mathematics and sciences can be attributed to the limited number of STEM teachers in the Country. Worse still, this situation is not likely to improve considering that there were no teachers recruited in 2019, yet we continue to lose teachers through deaths, resignations, transfers to management positions and other factors.
Therefore, there is need to recruit more teachers in STEM subjects because that is where we have a high teacher pupil radio. For youths to take the lead in this digital era, it is important that more teachers are recruited in science and mathematics. The digital era requires competences in STEM and youths can only strive if this is made a priority in our basic education.
On tertiary education, it is important that education is made affordable for all youths to access it as it prepares them for the industry, employment and entrepreneurship. ZANEC is also concerned with the prevailing situation at the public universities, namely the Copperbelt University (CBU) and University of Zambia (UNZA). The delayed payment of lectures’ salaries especially at UNZA is of great concern, as this negatively affects the effective delivery of lessons to the learners by our lecturers. It is our hope therefore that the Minister of Higher Education will expedite the process of ensuring that lecturers and other staff in the two public universities are paid as soon as possible.
It is also sad that the meal allowances for first year students was removed, thereby making the students, especially female learners from poor households in the two universities, susceptible to illicit sexual activities in their quest to raise money for food. This will also make some of our youth who qualify for university education to stay away, thereby defeating the purpose of them taking the lead.
Lastly, to address all the above concerns, it is important that funding to the education sector is made a priority by increasing it to at least 20% of the national budget as stipulated in the Cairo and SADC Protocol to which Zambia is also a party.